Can Green IT be more than a friendly carbon footprint?

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10 February 2009
Catherine Stagg-Macey

Over coffee, a colleague, Miqdaad Versi, and I have been discussing green IT in the context of 2009. How can it remain a priority with the current crisis unfolding? We both agreed that green IT is more than feeling good about one's carbon footprint -- green IT is an approach to sourcing, utilising, and disposing that can reduce expenses. Now, tell me that isn't compelling!

Here are Miqdaad's thoughts on the topic:

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After the new stimulus package in the USA, the green agenda is becoming a hotter topic [clearly, it’s not just the climate heating up(!)]. And technology can really make a real difference, whether through major initiatives such as relocating and improving cooling systems at data centres, or continuous, smaller projects such as instituting duplex printing.

The power of technology is that it's effect is not only on the computing or technology industry itself, but also on the carbon footprint of entire companies. Let’s consider the simple case of switching lights off, or being more efficient with air conditioning systems. IT-led automation would cut a large slice off the energy usage. Or what about the carbon footprint left by those commuting to work, or air travel for meetings. Installing virtual systems, remote access and the latest HD video systems can entirely change the green credentials of your company.

But even all of these are still only a group of disparate ideas without any holistic plan. More and more consultant firms are getting in on the act and providing a complete green audit – starting with installing proactive systems to clearly identify green problems and monitor energy usage; followed by a systematic analysis of the results comparing them to well-known benchmarks, and using them to set ambitious improvement targets; and finally, finding a technological solution to radically and completely develop the green agenda.

The thing is that this green IT push will not only make the new green-friendly President happy but probably the CEO as well, with cost savings and efficiency improvements being reported throughout the industry – the cost of installing the latest HD video systems for conference calls is recouped after just two or three meetings! And it’s always good to be ahead of the upcoming regulation, with sustainability and improved publicity nice by-products.

So what are the big multi-national companies doing? Lots of green initiatives have started with technology firms banding together to make a difference. On the multinational and global scale, the Green Grid is focusing on data centre, as well as the promotion and adoption of best practice; the Climate Savers Computing Initiative has the aim of reducing IT’s share of carbon emissions – basically telling buyers about the most efficient desktops they can buy and how to use power saving schemes to keep electricity bills down. With Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, HP and Dell among the technology firms supporting these initiatives, there is clearly a real drive to move on this front.

Green IT is turning into a phenomenon pervading the whole of society. The Connected Urban Development aims to create replicable models for communications infrastructures for entire cities to reduce carbon emissions at every level of the community. Cisco is spearheading the IT side. The power of technology to make a real difference is being felt on a global scale.

So will green IT be the hot topic of 2009? Will it be seen as more important than Web 2.0 and other new, exciting ideas in the coming year? A few months ago, I’d have been sceptical…but with the green agenda being the focus of the most wealthy nation on the planet, only time will tell.

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Celent is planning some research into attitudes and perceptions of insurers to green IT. Watch this space!

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